Any work that asks people to look at topics of a controversial kind or to use imagination and explore feelings can only succeed if people feel comfortable with each other. So, time spent on getting to know each other, even if it seems ‚wasted‘ (not on the topic), is actually vitally important. A variety of activities can be used. Only a few of them are mentioned here.
1. First Names
Ask each person in turn to come and write their name on the board or paper and tell something about it – the origin; why they are named it; whether they like it; if they prefer. shorter or longer versions etc.
2. Talking in Pairs
People are asked to speak with one other person that they don’t know, or don’t know well, to introduce themselves to each other. They are encouraged to spend five minutes each. It is possible to give more specific questions to talk about.
Afterwards each person in the pair could introduce the other to another couple or to the whole group.
3. Ball of wool
People stand in a circle. The first person throws a ball of wool to another (anywhere in the circle) saying their first name and where they are from (or any other single thing that you decide on). The next person does the same. The wool should crasscross the circle. A point could be made at the end about the fact that everybody in the group is connected in some way by the wool and their being together right now.
4. What I would rather do
Sitting in a circle each person says their name and what they would do with their life Oob perhaps) if they could change. For example: ‚llaria – Actress‘. The next person then introduces their neighbour, saying their own name and what they would rather do. This continues until the last person introduces everybody and then themselves. This is not only a way for people to learn the names of others but to discover something more about them at the same time.
5. I AM…
Each person is given the ‚I AM…‘ sheet (copy attached) and asked to write largely and clearly three things about themselves that are not obvious. So not, I am female or wear spectacles or have red hair. They can be as revealing or ordinary as each person wants them to be. Then they attach the sheet to their front. Stand. Walk around and introduce themselves to all the other participants by shaking hands; exchanging names; looking at the sheet of the other person and briefly commenting or asking a question. This allows a real personal connection between each person at the start.
The Personal Shield and Human Bingo, also in the pack, can be used as getting to know each other exercises or later as re-connection ones. The value of all of them is that they stress that each individual matters and is being valued for themselves, before anything is done in groups or on the content. This is essential for this work that looks at respecting others and accepting difference. It sends a very clear signal right from the start.